Without even thinking, without considering the consequences, Ryan shifted.
Stef’s communication window had gone grey, like she’d gone into a blackout zone. The one grace was that it didn’t necessarily mean that she was-
The world went in and out of focus, then became sharp as he reintegrated. He was in a recruit room – a bed to his left, and no sign of any agents or recruits anywhere.
He flexed his hands, and tried to pull information from the ether, even as he tore through his HUD to find out cold, hard facts. Stef was offline – not anywhere that the system could find her; same for Grigori; and the same for Curt.
He turned to look at the room – there were no obvious signs of struggle, except for-
A sliver of light caught his eye as he turned, and he knelt down, and saw a small smear of blood on the ground – like someone had pressed bloody fingers to the carpet.
His scan ran immediately, even as his fingers came into contact with the blood – the blue in it identifying it as belong to Agent Mimosa, S.
His- His daughter. His agent. His family. Was hurt. The injury had been recent – probably as recent the cry for help, as the automatic cleaning routines hadn’t had time to clear away the- Evidence.
He checked the timestamps on the last known system coordinates – all three had disappeared at the same time. Unless something had happened within this agency – which was unlikely, as he’d been able to shift directly to Stef’s last known position, they had gone from System territory to a blackout – or Faerie – within seconds.
There were pieces of magic that could do that. Fae could fade in and out of System territory with varying degrees of success; and there were over-the-counter emergency teleports, even if that counter transaction cost something like handing over your firstborn, or the majority of a bank account.
She was hurt – and she was with two men he didn’t trust – though given the circumstances, there was at least the hope that his ex-Solstice recruit was a friend, rather than another foe.
The location demanded one thing immediately.
Ryan opened his staff menu, and forcibly shifted Taylor to his current location, using his directorial overrides as to not give the man a chance to deny or question the transport.
Taylor appeared, naked, looking surprisingly peaceful and happy.
The combat agent blinked at him, then required his uniform into place, his usual angry, sour expression returning to his face.
Ryan carefully appraised Taylor. They had- They had something approaching a truce. The air had been cleared over Carol – not that he was sure the other man would ever forgive him. Things had almost been-
There was every chance Taylor knew nothing. There was every chance Taylor knew everything.
Taylor grunted, clearly wanting him to say something.
‘Your friend,’ Ryan said, fighting with himself to keep his voice neutral, ‘his disappeared from System territory, along with two of my people.’
Taylor grunted again.
‘Do you know anything about it?’
Taylor stared – his brown eyes carefully neutral. This wasn’t Taylor being disinterested in the situation, or refusing to pay attention. This was-
‘What do you know?’ Ryan asked, finally releasing some of his stress into his voice. ‘What do you know, Taylor?’
Taylor closed his eyes. ‘He spoke of the dead.’ For a moment, it was like the old Taylor speaking. The voice of man he’d called his brother. ‘He does not have proof for all of them.’
Ryan swung his fist back against the wall, and felt it smash. He lifted his hand to his face, and picked shards of brick from his skin. It gave him – momentarily – something else to focus on. He had no idea of what the situation truly was. He knew his daughter was hurt, and that lens was colouring the entire situation.
He had to step back. Had to see the situation like an agent, not like a father.
Ryan wiped his brick-dust-covered hand on his coat, then looked at Taylor. ‘In your opinion, Agent, would he wish for such proof? Would he- You know what I’m asking, Taylor.’
Taylor grunted, then nodded.
That fit the flow. Grigori attacked Stef. Took part of the mirror to make a wish. And- It seemed incongruous that they would then disappear.
Mirror magic was unpredictable. Mirror magic was dangerous.
Magnolia appeared beside Taylor, and he took a step back, allowing his aide the freedom to deal with the situation.
‘I’m up to speed,’ Magnolia said without preamble. ‘You think Grigori went after the nerd, and three agency personnel just disappeared from here without a trace, right?’
Anger crossed Magnolia’s face. ‘Are you a field agent, or a fucking statue? This is all you’ve done? Who’s your tech resource, what drones have you got active?’
Ryan frowned. ‘I wanted to know if you two were complicit in Grigori’s actions.’
‘The Tsar does what he wants,’ she snapped. ‘Whatever the fuck is going on, we’re not to blame.’ She turned to Taylor, and placed a hand on his forearm. ‘I’m going back to our agency,’ she said over her shoulder, ‘and I’ll do you fucking job for you, Director. Coordinate with his family here.’ She looked up at her commander. ‘But mirror can transport someone to the ends of the universe, so you may have to get your wings flapping.’
Magnolia was shifted away, but Taylor lingered.
Ryan stared at the floor, unsure if he wanted the answer to his next question. ‘Would he kill her?’
The answer was immediate, and definite. ‘You’re sure?’
‘It makes no tactical sense.’
Ryan curled his hands into fists. ‘Says the man who tried to murder her.’
Taylor looked away. ‘That wasn’t tactics,’ he said, his words thick. ‘That was- Emotion.’
‘And Grigori?’ Ryan pressed.
Taylor’s gaze centred on him. ‘A container that can walk. That can hide the location of the mirror. She’s more useful alive.’ Taylor’s head cocked to the side. ‘In my tactical opinion. Sir.’